Sunday, February 23, 2014

Date & Walnut Loaf

I have loved Date & Walnut loaf for a very long time but, with a nut allergic child in the house, it hasn’t been on the menu for a while. 

Now that the bird has flown to its own little nest, I still feel incredibly guilty for reintroducing nuts into the house.  I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I found myself dropping mini packets of peanut M&Ms (I’m not sure I actually like these but they’re so moreish) and the odd jar of crunchy peanut butter into my shopping cart, much to the chagrin of the Irish one who maintains a fierce loyalty to no peanut butter but somehow doesn’t apply it to buying bags of fresh nuts for snacking.  Go figure.

The Irish one may prefer his Barm Brack which is nice, but I think the sweet stickiness of the dates against the crunch of the walnuts make this my favourite tea loaf.

Date & Walnut Loaf

225g stoned dates, chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
300ml hot water
275g self-raising flour
100g butter, chopped into pieces
50g shelled walnuts, chopped
100g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten

Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Place the dates, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and pour over the hot water.  Set aside until cool.

Sift the flour in a bowl.  Add the butter pieces and rub into the flour until combined.  Stir in the walnuts and sugar until thoroughly combined.

Mix the dry ingredients into the cooled date mixture and beat in the egg. 

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Store in an airtight tin.  The loaf keeps well and even improves with age!

And this gets shared for the first of this year's Sweet New Zealand treats hosted by Sweet NZ founder, Alessandra.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I’ll be the first to admit that this is cheat’s gazpacho made with tinned tomatoes not fresh, but when your own crop is nowhere near ripe and store bought are flavourless then I really am not going to apologize. If you’ve got tasty, ripe, fresh tomatoes go for it.

I’ve made this twice so far this summer.  First was Christmas Eve in Taranaki when I’d been rostered on for dinner on Day One.  Arriving at 3.30pm after a long drive from Auckland, I set about making it (after first refreshing with a cup of tea and slice of Christmas cake). I was under a bit of time pressure to chill the gazpacho down (yes, serves me right for using a cooked tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes!). In the end I poured small amounts to just cover the bottom of several ice cream containers and placed them in any fridge or freezer I could find and thankfully managed to get the soup to the desired chilled temperature. 

Having learnt my lesson, the second time was far easier as I made the entire soup dish at home, froze it and took it down with us early morning for a weekend in Tairua.  It was left to defrost during the day (out of the fridge), and reached perfect chill temperature just in time for dinner.  From there it was an easy assemble into glasses (I like to take these with me as I can’t always guarantee I’m going to find the right vessels at the holiday home).  It also won a gold star from me as the easiest, no-stress dish I’ve ever had to present at a shared meal.

The recipe is my adaptation and combination of two Jamie Oliver recipes – his Spanish Gazpacho from Jamie Does and his simple but wonderful tomato sauce from The Naked Chef, which I use for just about everything – pasta, pizza base, shakshouka et al.

For the gazpacho, I cook the sauce first and then, once chilled, add the additional elements for the soup.

It’s the perfect little starter for an outdoor evening meal or serve it at lunch with breads, cheese and antipasto platters.


Basic sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
½ - 1 red chilli, chopped & seeds removed or 1 small dried chilli, crumbled
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tins whole Italian cherry tomatoes (or Italian tomatoes)
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh basil or marjoram or Italian parsley (or combo of two)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil

Additional elements to make the Gazpacho 

¼ of a day-old ciabatta loaf (250g)
1 tsp harissa (I use Greg Malouf Red Harissa)
¾ Lebanese cucumber, peeled, roughly chopped
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded & roughly chopped
splash olive oil
splash balsamic vinegar

To serve

finely chopped red pepper
fresh herbs
extra virgin olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

For the tomato sauce

In a thick-bottomed pan, gently fry the garlic with the olive oil, then add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes.  Mix gently, being careful not to break the whole tomatoes (according to Jamie, this will make the sauce slightly bitter).

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 hour.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar and sugar.  If you’re using as a sauce only, either chop or use a potato masher and crush the tomatoes into the sauce. Add the herbs.  Season well to taste and stir in the extra virgin olive oil.

Use as a sauce or leave to cool for the following Gazpacho recipe.

For the gazpacho

Slice the bread and remove crusts.  Place in a bowl with 100ml cold water for about 5-10 minutes.

Place cooled tomato sauce mix in liquidizer or food processor and whiz.  Squeeze the water from the bread and add the bread, pepper, cucumber, harissa and a splash of cold water to the bowl and whiz again.  The colour will change to a more pinky-orange because of the bread.  Add more water if required to get to the right “soup” consistency.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Add more sugar if necessary. Either place in a covered jug in the fridge to chill or freeze. 

Serve at chilled temperature in soup bowls or glass (I prefer glasses). 

Drizzle the top with good quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or sherry vinegar, if you have it).  Garnish with finely chopped red pepper and finely chopped fresh herbs e.g. basil, thyme, marjoram, Italian parsley.

I offer teaspoons, but it can be either spooned or sipped from the glass.